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3 things we learned about the St. Louis Rams

By Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange
St. Louis Rams head Coach Jeff Fisher watches the Seattle Seahawks offense at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on December 27, 2015. The Rams beat the Seahawks 23-17. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI
St. Louis Rams head Coach Jeff Fisher watches the Seattle Seahawks offense at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on December 27, 2015. The Rams beat the Seahawks 23-17. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo

SEATTLE -- St. Louis defensive end Chris Long has been involved in plenty of close battles with the rival Seattle Seahawks over his eight NFL seasons, but every time he walked into the visiting locker room at CenturyLink Field, his Rams had little to show for it.

That finally changed Sunday, when the Rams shocked Seattle with a 23-17 win, the first road win for St. Louis against the Seahawks since 2004.

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"Better late than never," Long said in the celebratory locker room late Sunday afternoon. "It was awesome. A great team win."

St. Louis linebacker Akeem Ayers had two key fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a first-quarter touchdown, sparking the Rams to a 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Ayers finished off the day with another fumble recovery, at the St. Louis 8-yard line, to clinch the win.

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"It's just running to the ball," Ayers said of his two fumble recoveries. "(Defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) preached getting to the ball. The more people getting to the ball, the more likely you'll make something happen."

The Rams (7-8) have won three in a row after falling into a five-game funk that knocked them out of playoff contention.

"They're not giving out participation trophies for us not quitting," Long said. "But that's not something we're going to do. These guys aren't going to quit, and it's nice to see that we didn't."

The Seahawks (9-6) saw their five-game winning streak end. They had already clinched a playoff berth and were out of contention for the NFC West title before the game started, so the defeat had very little bearing on Seattle's postseason outlook.

"This game showed there were a lot of weaknesses we have to fix," said wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who caught eight passes for 118 yards and caught a touchdown pass for the fifth week in a row, giving him a franchise record of 14 for the season.

It marked only the second time, and the first since 2004, that St. Louis swept Seattle in two divisional games in the same season.

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Ayers returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown to help propel the Rams to a 16-0 lead.

What we learned about the Rams:

1. St. Louis still has Seattle's number.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambles against the St. Louis Rams. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI

For whatever reason, the Rams are a thorn in the Seahawks' side. Pass rush has a lot to do with it, and the Rams were able to provide plenty Sunday -- even without defensive end Robert Quinn in uniform.

2. The defensive line is still pretty formidable

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) fumbles the ball after getting tackled by St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Eugene Sims (97). Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI

...thanks in large part to the emergence of defensive end William Hayes. The veteran backup had three of the Rams' four sacks on a day when St. Louis had Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on the run. Wilson took more hits than he had in any game since the season opener -- also a loss to the Rams.

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3. The Rams have a nose for the football -- on both sides of the ball.

St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) runs for nine yards against the Seattle Seahawks. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI

While linebacker Akeem Ayers played a huge role with a pair of recoveries -- one that resulted in a 45-yard return touchdown, and the other in a game-clinching turnover -- the Rams also have center Tim Barnes to thank for the win. Barnes recovered two St. Louis fumbles on the same drive, keeping it alive as the Rams eventually scored to go ahead 23-10 with 10:34 remaining.

Etc.

--CB Trumaine Johnson had an interception for the fourth week in a row. Johnson picked off Seattle QB Russell Wilson in the second quarter, giving him a career-high seven for the season.

--LB Akeem Ayers scored his first career touchdown on a 45-yard fumble return in the first quarter Sunday. Ayers scooped up a fumbled by Seattle FB Will Tukuafu and ran 45 yards to give St. Louis a 10-0 lead 8 1/2 minutes into the game. Ayers added a huge recovery at the St. Louis 8-yard line with less than three minutes left to clinch the win.

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--DE William Hayes had three sacks and six quarterback hits Sunday, almost single-handedly making up for the loss of Pro Bowl DE Robert Quinn.

--DT Nick Fairley was one of three St. Louis defenders to come out of the game with a concussion. S Mark Barron and DL Ethan Westbrooks also had to sit out the second half.

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